My Inner Mystic

reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3

Tag Archives: nervous system

~water~ *ROCKS# EarTH

5 dudes, 1 woman - earth & water

I recently hosted 5 dudes – 5 MEN – for 5 ePic days and nights. Two dudes became four and then finally five. The population of my house exploded from one to six. It took me an entire week, 7 full days and nights, to recover from that adventure.

How did this all come about? You all remember my friend, Rosh, right? I met Rosh in Maui at the start of 2014 on a yoga retreat with Hana Maui Yoga Institute. On the drive out to Hana, Rosh was chatting up The Blind Cafe which I had *just* heard about a few months back. Rosh was that guy, the guy who founded The Blind Cafe, THE man behind the operation since he started running these pop up events in 2010.

Rosh stayed at my place last summer when The Blind Cafe came to Seattle and while I was in Peru. He called me up a few weeks before the event and asked he if could “rent” my car and I said, “you mean… borrow?” During the course of that conversation he joked that maybe he should “move in” to my house. This scenario had occurred to me and I had already decided I’d be ok with that, so over the phone I agreed to let Rosh stay at my place while I was on the other side of the equator. That was a first for me, quite an act of trust on my part, to let some man I’d only gotten to know for a week on retreat, interacted with briefly at a Blind Cafe in San Francisco, with whom I exchanged sporadic emails and a few phone calls, have total access to all my belongings. But that’s the thing about Rosh… he engenders immediate and whole hearted trust.

Rosh and I reconnected in Maui at the start of this year for our second annual new year’s retreat. During that week, our mutual respect of each other and friendship deepened. When I learned The Blind Cafe was coming back to Seattle, I offered up my place to Rosh as his home base, offered up the use of my car. There was a bit of back and forth – phone calls and emails – questions like, “how many people are you comfortable having stay at your place?” and arrangements to split up The Blind Cafe team at two houses so we wouldn’t be all on top of each other. Going into this adventure, it was my expectation and understanding that I’d be hosting 2 guys, Rosh and his new operations manager, for 7 nights. Two guys. I felt my insides relax when I got the final news. Not four or five. Two.

The night Rosh arrived he told me housing fell through for his other guys and that he needed to find a place for them to stay, with mentions of possibly booking them a hotel room. The next morning Rosh asked me if I’d be ok with two more guys joining us. I hesitated at first. My insides said, “ahhhhhh.” He read me energetically and said, “it’s more fun if we are all together.” Tug, tug at my heart strings. I thought about it on my bike ride to work, visualized in my head where folks would “camp” out, did a mental inventory of blankets, pillows, and towels. Ok.  We can do this.

On the third night, the fifth guy joined us. Not so much asking at this point, just Rosh slipping in a little, “Sliver Fox is coming,” before bedtime on night two. Me: “What? Who?” Rosh: “We’ll talk about it in the morning.” Ultimately: questions unanswered. Sigh. At this point, what was one more person?. Oh and I guess I forgot to mention that two of these five guys are blind. Yeah, you are experiencing this news just like I did, “ummmm, what?!” and “ok.” (here you’ll have to add tones of first surprise and then tentative agreement into your internal voice of my voice and please, laugh along with me if you haven’t yet already)

I imagine that as you are reading this, you are getting a sense of Rosh’s watery nature and my more earthy nature. Rosh shifts like the sands, he is fluid. I am solid, steady, grounded like the earth. Rosh’s watery nature, from the get go, was rocking my earthy nature, but that’s what I signed up for. I know this about Rosh, I know his watery nature “pushes” people to stretch and grow. One of our retreat mantras was, after all, “the schedule is carved in sand, not in stone.”  Rosh’s vibration, his optimism, his upbeat and encouraging energy, makes you want to stretch and grow. I find myself saying yes to things I wouldn’t normally say yes to and I do it because I know it’s helping me to grow and I want to grow, I want to expand the edges of my comfort zone. I signed up for this adventure. I invited this experience into my life, all the way in…

What was it like having 5 dudes in my house? Intimate. Noisy. Bustling. Busy bathroom. House and yard full of life, sometimes more life than my nervous system could tolerate. I am a highly sensitive creature – my nervous system cannot hold multiple conversations, loud music, and people shifting about all at the same time. In these moments I was really challenged to stay grounded and collected.  Remember, the population of my house exploded from one to six and I was one female among five MEN.

I got a lot of practice relating to men and experiencing very different kinds of energies. I got practice making requests. I got practice setting boundaries, particularly around my tolerance for certain kinds of humor. Father and past relationship issues bubbled up to the surface. In one particularly loud and expressive voice, I heard yelling and anger and I noticed how my nervous system started to rev up and go into fight/flight/freeze mode. Oh, and exhausting. I didn’t sleep well at all. I knew that would be my greatest challenge and it was. A rush/flood of adrenaline and stress hormones made it hard for my body and mind to relax, especially the first night. And after 5 nights of not sleeping well, I was really run down and worried I was on the verge of coming down with a whopper of a cold.

Rosh rockin'

Rosh rockin’ in my living room like the staR he is.

The whole experience – hosting 5 dudes and “being” with Rosh’s wateriness – rocked my internal structures, specifically my needs for order, predictability, reliability, boundaries, peace and tranquility. I stretched myself farther than I’ve stretched myself before on my home turf. I’m not accustomed to so many bodies “living in” my house. I’m not used to being around so much big male energy, and sometimes the emergence of middle school aged chatter, in my home, my sacred space, day after day. I’m not used to so many shifting variables and changes in plans. I’m not used to my furniture being moved around. All of that rocked my insides, rocked my structures and I was asked to adapt, be resilient, or crumble and break down inside. Toward the end I *was* starting to crumble inside. My system was maxed out. I had experienced more “shake ups” and “rattling” than I could hold. I was feeling agitated, irritable, and needed space and quiet and sleep.

I was rocked and I recovered. Now I know I can make it through ePic internal stretches, that I can push myself and be pushed outside my comfort zone. It is my hope that my nervous system benefited from this experience, that it will be able to hold discomfort and change, to be with agitation, with ease; that I will be able to stay grounded and collected with grace when things get shaky and turbulent. I will say this of my earthy nature: I *am* resilient and adaptable and where I am not, I am cultivating a softer, more fertile soil, letting my being soak up ~water~ to soften my earthiness.

Rosh's rock, used at The Blind Cafe to

Rosh’s rock, used at The Blind Cafe to “gong” the singing bowl. Ironic, huh?, that Rosh left it at my house.

I can tell you this much…as a writer, I have let go of conventional form here. I fully embraced the meandering, watery quality of a personal essay, taking you on a walk and talk along the bank of and sometimes wadding into the babbling brook that is me.

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Living in a wired, umm wild, world

We live in a world of constant connectivity.  Phones, email, texts, social media.  Connected.  All.  The.  Time.  We live a world that “demands” that we juggle bouncing balls.  And whilst we juggle these balls, we field phone calls, emails, texts, and a slew of updates, notifications, or messages.

Can you hear the “bing, bing” or “buzz, buzz” of an incoming text message?  Do you see the flash on the bottom of your screen alerting you of a new email?  Do you see that new notification on your social media site?  Do you see the little pop up telling you so and so has just “logged on”?  Too much stimulation. Sensory overload.  All this connectivity leaves us feeling wired.  Some might say constant connectivity is the “plague” of modern times.

Do you ever lie down and close your eyes after engaging in stimulating conversation or spending time on your computer?  And when you do, have you noticed all the buzzing in your brain?  I have.  When I close my eyes after a long stretch of working on the computer, I’m pretty certain I can feel my neurotransmitters firing across the synapses.  It feels like fire flies are buzzing around in my brain.  I can practically see the light show.

Have you ever lied down with your eyes closed and scanned your body after a busy day at work, a day of juggling?  I have.  I can feel the “zzzz” of energy pulsating in my arm and leg in my right side.  That “zzz zing” as I call it, is from all the left brain activity I do.  Left brain is stimulated, sends signals through my nervous system, and I feel the “zzzz” in the right side of my body.  Sound woo woo?  Just think of folks who’ve had brain injuries or strokes.  Motor function on the opposite side of the body of injured brain half is affected and/or impaired.  The link between the two . . . our nervous systems.

As a human species, we have lived on planet earth for thousands, if not, millions of years.  The peoples we descended from used to live in caves and hunted and ran after their food.  And they used to run from or take cover from wild animals that threatened their lives, often the same animals they hunted.  When the bodies of our more primitive ancestors perceived danger, their nervous systems were aroused.  Their bodies responded appropriately to the signals from their nervous systems:  fight or flight.  This wild, primitive world is the lineage of our nervous systems.

Our bodies are wired to do the same thing today:  survive.  But today, instead of running from wild animals, we are bombarded with information and media.  We are constantly stimulated.  We experience sensory overload.  All the stimulation in our modern lives is very confusing for the body and the brain.  Our brains do not know how to filter all this information.  Our bodies, our nervous systems, do not know how to cope with being constantly bombarded.

Our bodies perceive and filter the bombardment in much the same way as our ancestors bodies perceived and responded to danger when they were being chased by tigers or when a stampede of buffalo stormed through the “village” or cluster of nomadic tents.  Our nervous systems are aroused.  The nerves fire up and send signals for the body to prepare for attack or to run for survival (this is fight or flight).

Unlike our ancestors, we do not burn up or run off all the adrenal energy released into our bodies.  In our modern world, we are not chased by wild animals.  Instead, we sit idle at our computers or with phone in hand firing off text messages, sending emails, responding to notifications, and so on.  With no release for this surge of energy, we are over stimulated and are left “zzz zing.”  We feel wired.  We are trapped in a state of hyper arousal.  We have trouble coming down from the surge.

I am particularly sensitive to over stimulation.  The “zzz zing” is like electricity running through my body and brain.  When I am super wired, I have trouble sleeping.  I have trouble falling asleep and then I have trouble staying asleep.  I remember back in my college and graduate school days when I stayed up late writing a big paper.  My brain would stay in writing mode the entire night – I’d be “writing” in my dreams.  Needless to say, on those nights I didn’t sleep peacefully.  I continue to experience this in my adult life.  If I work on my budget or travel plans or writing too close to bedtime, my brain will work all night long and I’ll be in and out of restless sleep.  In my waking life, I feel a surge through my body.  I don’t need to consume energy drinks.  My body releases an overabundance of adrenal energy that at times makes me feel a little jittery, like I’ve had too much caffeine.

How do I help my body cope with over stimulation?  I choose not to be so connected.  I do not own a smart phone.  My phone is dumb.  No internet connection, no apps.  Because of the painful circumstances of the “ka-boom,” I chose to disconnect from certain social media.  Since then, I have chosen not to re-enter the land of connectivity.  Instead, I invest in cultivating meaningful, face to face connections.  I take breaks from my computer for entire evenings and entire weekends.  And when I travel, I am pretty much, if not entirely, unplugged.  If a wild bull ran through Seattle or the Space Needle fell over, I wouldn’t have a clue and all for the best.  I would much rather immerse myself in the present moment, right where I am.

What do I do for a remedy to this “plague” of modern times?  I ground myself.  Just like electricity needs to be grounded, so do I.  How do I do this?  I bring awareness into my body (and out of my head).  I practice yoga.  I do somatic movement.  I do my physical therapy exercises.  From time to time I do a formal sit and meditate.  Sometimes when I’m really wired during my work day, I fold myself into a forward bend or stand on my head.  All of these practices calm the nervous system.

I have discovered an especially powerful remedy that is both meditative and mindful.  I sit and watch the sunset until all the color has left the sky.  After that, I marvel at the twilight.  I sit in my back yard and listen to and watch birds.  I lie in the grass and watch bugs.  I lie on my back under a canopy of oak trees in the little “park” near my house, arms wide open, and let mother earth hold me.  I lie there until all the light leaves the sky.  I watch the bats start to come out and then the stars.  I remain still.  My body and mind become still.  The “zzz zing” dissipates and is released from my body.  I have grounded myself.

mindful sunset at Green Lake – Seattle, WA

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I am by no means an expert on the nervous system.  What I have shared is a synthesis of what I have learned from my teachers (yoga, somatic movement, mindfulness, meditation), from the resources I have read, and from my own mind-body journey of discovery.

A great resource from a real expert is Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky.